KWM wins International Arbitration Law Firm of the Year at Asian Legal Business Hong Kong Law Awards 2021

Sep 2021


Aren’t these award ceremonies amazing ? When you get nowhere, and someone else wins, you think  ‘what a load of rubbish’.  But when you actually win, you are on Cloud Nine – best award ever etc.

Well, this was the best award ever.  What made us stand out?  I put it down to 3 factors.  First, of course, the trust and loyalty of our clients – though I should not go on and mimic the Oscar speech ‘without whom there would be no disputes’.

Secondly, the seamless arbitration service that we can provide, by ensuring where necessary that arbitration teams are made up of lawyers from across our offices.   In other words, we do not just take ‘referrals’ from other offices.  We try to ensure that those offices are part of the arbitration team where that helps our clients.  Thus, in an arbitration connected with the need to protect our clients in China Mainland, Hong Kong and Australia, we formed a cross-office team from those jurisdictions.  In fact, our client needed help both in Beijing and in Jinan, and so our Jinan arbitration colleagues joined that team.  There are not many (no) other law firms who could add arbitration specialists from 13 Mainland offices.

Thirdly, the cutting-edge arbitration work that we have the privilege of undertaking.  We represented clients in what we think may have been the first emergency arbitration at CIETAC Beijing.  In another ground-breaking matter, by forming a team straddling Singapore, Hong Kong and China Mainland, we became the first law firm to obtain from the Shanghai Financial Court asset protection of around HKD 3 billion in aid of a Hong Kong seated arbitration, under the (then new) mutual governmental arrangement (see our post on that here).  In another matter, we believe that we may be going all the way up to one of the world’s finest courts, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (comprising local  but also some of the world’s finest commonwealth judges), to make arbitration case law in a major dispute.  And our reputation for construction arbitration is known: we just finished helping to settle a HKD 1.2 billion dispute, and we are just about to commence a construction arbitration over HKD 2 billion of claims.  Back in 1985, my first Hong Kong arbitration was said to be the largest – at 100 million!

So thank you to our clients.  You don’t go into a deal to end up in disputes.  But, where that is unavoidable, we are honoured to work with you in trying to resolve them.


Paul Starr is the head of KWM’s Hong Kong Dispute Resolution team and the Global Joint Coordinator of our International Arbitration team. His encyclopaedic knowledge of construction law cases is rivalled only by his sommelier-like knowledge of Bordeaux reds. In the pre-COVID era, Paul spent his time living between Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific’s global fleet, following clients and their disputes all over the world, from Germany to Guatemala. When he’s not working, wining, dining or travelling, Paul has a penchant for putting together legal mini-plays (they are pretty good – and he is expecting a call from Netflix any day now).

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